Monday, November 23, 2020

Giving Thanks for Election Administrators, Election Judges, and Support Staff

We've got a couple of words of hearty thanks to give as we near the end of an unprecedented election season. Please take just a moment of rest to read and share these words with your colleagues, preferably with a treat and warm mug in hand.

To Minnesota's election administrators, election judges, and support staff: Thank you!

Thank you for all your work planning, preparing, pivoting, re-planning, and then executing this massive undertaking with integrity. During a pandemic. Under a microscope.

That includes:
  • Implementing special procedures and cleaning to reduce the risk.
  • Educating voters about in-person, absentee, and early voting options.
  • Processing and accepting 1,909,277 absentee and mail ballots. 
  • Recruiting and coordinating over 30,000 election judges.
  • Urgently and successfully communicating last-minute changes. 
  • Smizing (smiling w/your eyes) while wearing a mask and assisting voters at polling places!

You made it possible for more than 3.2 million Minnesotans to vote safely and securely. This work was done precinct by precinct, person by person. The amazing turnout is a testament to the faith that Minnesotans have in our state’s election infrastructure, and the most important part of that infrastructure is people like you!

With gratitude in our hearts,


Friday, October 23, 2020

Key Takeaways from LMC Live! – Our Fall Webinar Series

It’s a wrap on LMC Live!, our free week of webinars. Though we missed seeing you in person for Regional Meetings this year, it was nice to gather online! 

State agencies, local subject matter experts, and League staff all shared their expertise on topics important to Minnesota cities, so we wanted to share some key takeaways from each of these sessions with you. 

Legislative Update

  1. In 2020, the focus of the legislature was pandemic response and police reform. Little else was accomplished.
  2. Going in to 2021, with the help of municipal leaders, the League will be working to protect resources for cities at both the state and federal levels.

Police Accountability Act and Implications for Cities

  1. City leaders have an important role in police reform — like fostering good relationships with their police chiefs and understanding how their police departments operate.
  2. The need to look at use-of-force reforms is not specific to the metro area — in fact, 60% of officer-involved shootings happen in Greater Minnesota.

Economic Outlook for Cities

  1. Minnesota is projected to have a $4.7 billion deficit for the upcoming biennium. Although that forecast will be updated around Dec. 1, the governor and legislature will address it when they convene in January.
  2. Polling during the webinar indicated cities are fairly optimistic about the impact on employment in cities.

A Legislative Spotlight on Elections

  1. Minnesota has a great history of voter turnout — in 2016 and 2018, we led the U.S. and are poised to again this year.
  2. Election administration looks different in 2020, but (thanks to the Secretary of State’s office and city elections officials) Minnesotans will be able to vote in a safe and secure way.

Normalizing the Conversation About Public Safety Mental Health

  1. Due to the nature of their jobs, public safety personnel may be at greater risk for PTSD/mental health concerns.
  2. A culture of compassion and support, proactive mental health programs — along with treatment options — can help keep your public safety teams healthy.

A Briefing from Gov. Tim Walz

  1. It'll take a strong state and local partnership to stem the impacts of COVID-19 — both from a public health perspective and from an economic recovery perspective. 
  2. To get anything done, you've got to reach across the divides you’re working around and compromise.

Prefer a print-friendly version of these key takeaways? Click here for a PDF of this handout

Monday, August 17, 2020

You Made It Work So Minnesotans Could Vote

To everyone who is still decompressing from the weeks and months of prep leading up to last Tuesday's pandemic-themed primary election:

You altered ALL your plans.
You stepped up to become a frontline worker.
You counted more paper ballots than ever.
You invested hours of meticulous planning in an abyss of unknowns.

Well. It paid off. Minnesotans felt safe enough to participate, and participate they did! According to the Secretary of State, over 900,000 Minnesotans cast a primary ballot by mail or in person.

You made it work so Minnesotans could vote. Frankly this is all exceptional, and yet exactly what we expect from elections administrators and their teams because it’s what you always do: step up for Minnesota voters. 

We know election season is far, far from over, but just wanted to let you know that we see you and appreciate the strong foundation you have made for the weeks and months ahead. THANK YOU!

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Backup Plan for Your Plan: Recruiting Emergency Poll Workers

By Jake Spano

Greetings Colleagues!

My name is Jake Spano and I am the deputy secretary in Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office. I am also mayor of St. Louis Park. My role as mayor helps me connect local issues with my work at the state and get perspectives on the election issues facing cities. And as we all know we’ve got challenges in 2020!

Right now, we’re gearing up for a big election season — in the middle of a pandemic.

This poses two challenges:

First Challenge: While we know there are people who need to vote at their polling place, we also understand that reducing the number of in-person voters is critical to keep our communities healthy. We at the secretary of state's office are STRONGLY encouraging people to vote from home — using Minnesota’s absentee balloting system — to help prevent spread of COVID-19. Any eligible voter can visit and in a couple of minutes apply for an absentee ballot for both the primary and general election to be mailed to their homes.

Second Challenge: We must all recruit enough poll workers, i.e., election judges, to staff the approximately 3,000 polling locations in Minnesota. Director of Elections David Maeda (former Minnetonka city clerk), recently sent out a few strategies in his weekly email for recruiting the 30,000+ poll workers we’ll need.

Curveball Challenge: But what’s your plan if a week before the election your poll workers suddenly cancel due to COVID concerns? You need a group of volunteers in reserve, and a great resource is all around you: your colleagues who work in your city!

Many of those in public sector roles are ready and willing to roll up their sleeves for the community when called. Your colleagues know the exceptional service delivery your residents expect, and they can rise to that challenge.

St. Louis Park's approach

Many cities, especially in greater Minnesota, have already trained their city staff as poll workers so this idea will not be new to them. For those not familiar with this strategy, I wanted to share more about St. Louis Park’s work and provide ideas for how you can get your city staff to support your elections effort.

In May, St. Louis Park City Clerk Melissa Kennedy had the idea to train 25% of the city workforce to be emergency poll workers. So far, the response has been impressive.

Once Melissa has her final list of emergency poll workers complete, she’ll conduct online training to ensure emergency poll workers are aware not only of the regular duties like assisting with curbside voting and checking voters in, but also extra COVID-related tasks like disinfecting voting booths and managing the flow of people in and out of the polling place. As you know, there’s a lot more to do this year than in the past.

One of the questions we hear from city employees about being a poll worker is whether they will have to declare a party affiliation. It’s true that under state law, no more than half of the poll workers in a location can be from one party. That means the head elections official in the city or county needs to know a poll worker’s party affiliation in order to assign them to the correct polling location. However, they are the ONLY person who knows and they cannot share that information with anyone else.

A backup plan for your plan

We cannot know what challenges we will face in the months ahead, but time spent preparing now will help us succeed on Election Day in administering accurate, transparent, and trustworthy elections in our local communities and the state of Minnesota. In order to do that you must have a backup plan. That plan cannot be to make your regular poll workers risk their health or the health of others by coming in sick, or conversely, make them feel guilty for canceling.

Having a reserve group of election judges can put everyone more at ease.

David Maeda and I are ready to help you with your planning. Contact us with any questions or ideas that can help support your work and that of other election administrators in the state. We want to hear your great ideas too!

Email me at if you’ve got suggestions of your own or would like to get samples of emails you can send to staff, a sample COVID-19 Emergency Plan, and/or a sample COVID-19 Staff/Election Judge Recruitment Plan.

Have a great summer and don’t forget to wash your hands!

Jake Spano
Mayor of St. Louis Park / Deputy Secretary of State

Monday, July 13, 2020

Census Week of Action: Social Media Posts to Share in Your Community

By Rachel Walker, LMC policy analysis manager

Hey all, it’s Rachel, policy analysis manager and "census info connector" at the League.

Did you know July 13-17 is 2020 Census Week of Action? While the census is underway and Minnesota is LEADING in census response, the work is far from over. This week is a great time to check in with your residents to make sure that they have access to the information they need about the census and to encourage historically undercounted groups to respond to the 2020 Census.

People in Minnesota who are less likely to be counted include snowbirds, babies/children ages 0-4, renter households, and college students. You can see the full list of undercounted populations on the MN State Demographic Center website.

To help cities get the word out and to make the week of action as easy as possible, the Minnesota state demographer's office has put together content for social media posts that you can share this week or in weeks ahead. Each has a theme, some information, and an image or video to share with your residents.

Take a look below and feel free to share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (adjust character counts accordingly), and any other platforms you may use.

Monday, July 13: For the future of our kids and our communities

CONTENT to share July 13

The #2020Census Makes Sense for Minnesota because …

Census data shapes the future for our kids, impacting funding for schools, clinics, parks, libraries & more. Go to or call (844) 330-2020 to respond today. If you do not respond, a census taker will soon visit your home in person. #WeCountMN

Share with this graphic (right-click to copy, then paste in your social media feed, or save to upload)

And/or SHARE this video – 2020 Census: Kids Benefit – We’re Counting on You

Tuesday, July 14: For the future of our communities - for our fair share of funding

CONTENT to share July 14

The #2020Census Makes Sense for Minnesota because ...

Data from the census will determine how billions of dollars in federal funds will be distributed over the next decade. When you respond, you help ensure your community gets a fair share of resources for hospitals, emergency services, schools, roads, and more.

It's not too late - respond now at or call (844) 330-2020. #WeCountMN

Share with this graphic (right-click to copy, then paste in your social media feed, or save to upload)

And/or SHARE this video: Safety First

Wednesday, July 15: For our fair share of political representation

CONTENT to share July 15

The #2020Census Makes Sense for Minnesota because ...

When everyone in the state is counted, we ensure fair representation in government--from local city council all the way up to the federal congress.

Most households have already responded. Don't be left out - respond now at or call (844) 330-2020 #WeCountMN

Share with this graphic (right-click to copy, then paste in your social media feed)

And/or SHARE this video: 2020 Census PSA: How Does the 2020 Census Affect Representation?

Thursday, July 16: It's never been easier for everyone to be counted

CONTENT to share July 16

The #2020Census Makes Sense for Minnesota because ...

It’s quick and easy, and our responses impact our communities for the next 10 years. Take a few minutes and do it today.

You can respond online at (even on your smartphone or tablet) or call (844) 330-2020 to take care if it over the phone.  #WeCountMN

Share with this graphic (right-click to copy, then paste in your social media feed)

And/or SHARE this post from the U.S. Census Bureau

Friday, July 17: For our communities to plan and rebuild

CONTENT to share July 17

The #2020Census Makes Sense for Minnesota because ...

In these complex times, the #2020Census can MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE. As we imagine a safer, more equitable future, information about everyone living in our state will help shape our plans. Don’t be left out of the count.

Take a few minutes to respond today. Go to or call (844) 330-2020

Share with this graphic (right-click to copy, then paste in your social media feed)

Got questions about your city's census efforts? contact me any time at Happy posting!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

We Got This: A Very Weird Municipal Clerks Week

It's Municipal Clerks Week, and it couldn't be weirder.

One constant we can be sure of though is that city clerks are using their flexibility and dedication to help communities across the state persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic.

City clerks are:
  • Learning new skills fast, and then turning around and teaching others.
  • Keeping things like bills, notices, critical projects, and reporting obligations on track from near-empty offices or not-so-empty living rooms.
  • Ensuring that cities are operating safely and legally for everyone using the best tools available.
  • Listening to upset residents and finding answers to their difficult questions.
With information changing by the hour, there have been some stressful days. But that's when city clerks take a deep breath and find a way to keep moving forward.

The League's Executive Director David Unmacht has taken up the mantra "We Got This" to show resolve and positivity in the face of crisis. We all know that great city clerks understand this to their core, and are leading the charge.

One more constant: Because you're here for our communities, we strive to be here for you. Keep the calls and questions coming, and we'll keep doing the best we can to support your work.

Take care, stay safe, and THANK YOU!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Ready to Celebrate Earth Day? So Are Minnesota Cities!

Ready to celebrate Earth Day? So are Minnesota cities!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, as well as the 10th anniversary of the GreenStep Cities program.

Earth Day recognizes the movement that brought environmental stewardship into the realm of modern day public policy, and the victories for our health and future that we've accomplished along the way.

GreenStep is our own homegrown challenge and recognition program for cities and tribal bodies who want to walk the walk, and move the needle on greener, cleaner, more efficient, and vibrant communities.

The foundation of what was to become GreenStep Cities was presented to legislators in a report in February of 2009, outlining key building blocks of the program that sound a lot like what over 130 cities are participating in today. Planners hit the ceremonial "green means go" button the following year at the LMC Annual Conference!

Do you have to be a GreenStep City to do great work in sustainability? Heck no. But survey data shows time and again that the program's structure and technical expertise sure do help.

Here's just a few of the achievements that Green Step Cities have notched recently:
  • Rogers is saving $15,000 a year on an energy efficiency and wastewater system project, and is on track for a five-year payback.
  • Milan launched a free community bikes program using donated used bikes. They installed bike racks at the library and a city park, which also has a bike repair station. 
  • South Saint Paul converted lights in the city’s arena to LEDs and is now saving $36,000 a year in energy costs and $6,000 a year in maintenance. Return on investment was just 18 months!
  • Bemidji took advantage of the state’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Program and an Energy Savings Performance Contract to complete $2.45 million in upgrades to eight city buildings, its wastewater treatment plant, and the city’s streetlights. The city's upfront costs were only $273,000 in previously approved capital improvement plan dollars.
  • Jordan cut use of 170 tons of road salt (half!) by switching to a brine mixture.The city saved $6,000 in 2017 alone.
  • Pierz partnered with a local business to offer community garden space. The gardens are used by residents and the school district's FFA class to grow fresh, local produce.
These are just a sampling of the thousands of ways that cities are embracing the spirit and power of Earth Day year round. Curious? Check out the GreenStep Cities website to see what your city and your neighbor cities have been doing to keep it green for 10 years and counting!